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Before the advent of screen printing (and more recently digital printing) one technique of applying different colours to tiles was to use different coloured clays. The Victorians called these encaustic tiles which were originally known as inlaid tiles. They were popularised during the Gothic Revival of the late 19th century when Victorian architects drew inspiration from medieval churches which featured bright encaustic floor tiles.
It is common for patterned tiles to be mistakenly conflated with encaustic tiles because they share many similar features including bright colours, repeating print patterns and are often distressed or rustic. Many contemporary patterned tiles have strong Mediterranean or Moroccan influences which traditionally used colourful clays to achieve bold designs.